Writer-comedian Dave Hill on why he hates Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”

Writer-comedian Dave Hill on why he hates Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”

In HateSongwe ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world. 

The hater: Dave Hill might be best known as a writer and comedian, but he actually does have some musical bona fides. In the ’90s, he played in popular Midwestern rock bands Uptown Sinclair, Cobra Verde, and Sons Of Elvis, and he currently plays the occasional show with Bridget Everett & The Tender Moments, a band that features Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz on bass. He also has a new show, Metal Grasshopper, that he created with Pantera’s Phil Anselmo coming out via Adult Swim later this year. More pressing, though, is the September 3 paperback release of Hill’s book, Tasteful Nudes, a work that The A.V. Club said “mixes ironic boastfulness with genuine heart.”

The hated: Lenny Kravitz, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” (1993)

The A.V. Club: Why did you pick “Are You Gonna Go My Way” as your least favorite song ever?

Dave Hill: I’m just repulsed by it in the most visceral way. It’s easy to say “Creed sucks” or “Nickelback sucks” or “90 percent of everything on the radio sucks,” but Lenny Kravitz is distinctly horrible. I don’t want to shit on anyone. I’m just saying he’s horrible in terms of what I want to hear; I’m sure he’s done very well for himself and I’m sure there’s plenty of housewives that think he’s amazing and I’m glad that they enjoy it. I think he’s amazing because he steals, though he’s got great taste across the board. He steals from awesome artists like The Beatles and Sly And The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix.

Rock ’n’ roll is all about stealing, but usually the idea is you steal from 20 awesome things and somehow synthesize them into something only you can do. You come up with something slightly new. But he steals from one artist at a time, like, “Oh, this is his Beatles song.” “This is his Sly Stone song.” It masquerades as this soulful, totally rocking, awesome, sexy music and, to me, it’s totally devoid of any of those things. It’s rock music for people that don’t like rock music in the way that Smirnoff Ice is alcohol for people who don’t like drinking. No one who has genuinely great taste in rock music is saying, “Oh, I love The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, early Aerosmith, and fucking Lenny Kravitz!” It’s always someone that likes Dave Matthews and Nickelback. 

AVC: I don’t think I know anyone who owns a Lenny Kravitz record.

DH: Millions of people do. You probably—like I do—surround yourself with lovely people with good taste so the odds of you or I running into a Lenny Kravitz CD at our friend’s house is not very good. But there are millions all over the world.

AVC: Is “Are You Gonna Go My Way” his Hendrix song?

DH: Yeah. I think most of his big songs are sometimes pretty catchy, but “Are You Gonna Go My Way” is so distinctly awful and shamelessly derivative. Even the riff and talking parts are from “Are You Experienced?” Ugh. It’s a CD that you’d get with your couch at Pottery Barn. It’s horrible. 

AVC: It kind of makes you question how he became popular in the first place. What wheels of the music industry turned to make him a career?

DH: Shit always floats to the top. His music is all frosting, no cake. It’s just the outfit, the sound.

AVC: He’s handsome. 

DH: He’s a very handsome guy who works out, I’m sure. I’ve heard stories about his music studio, about how he has the best vintage equipment. He’s a smart guy across the board, and he has great taste and steals from the best. But I think the end product is completely soulless and empty and absolute shit. But that’s as far as I’m concerned. I wish him the best and I’m perfectly fine if people listen to his music. I just don’t ever want to hear that song again. 

AVC: It definitely hasn’t aged very well in 20 years.

DH: I remember hearing it then and hating it right away. I thought all of this about him already, but when I heard that, I was just like, “Oh, man. He’s taken things to the next shitty level.” It’s just impressively shitty.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too mean. Maybe I’m not being mean enough.

AVC: I’d say his cover of “American Woman” is one of my most hated songs. 

DH: Yeah, that’s horrible, just so uniquely horrible. If I had said Nickelback or Creed, the thing with those bands is that they start with shitty ingredients and they end with shit. So it makes sense. You’re like, “Oh, yeah. They’re completely derivative of bands that sucked already.” It’s not that surprising that they, too, would completely suck. But Lenny Kravitz steals from exclusively legendary artists. 

AVC: If you’re going to steal, steal from the best. 

DH: Yeah, but most people who steal from the best manage to come out with something kind of cool. He, for whatever reason, always ends up with a big, steaming pile of shit.

AVC: There’s absolutely no grit.

DH: It doesn’t rock at all. There’s no authenticity to it. I keep going back to this, but it’s like Pottery Barn or Urban Outfitters; it’s fake grit. It’s like you bought something that’s already fucked-up, like a fake vintage T-shirt or whatever. He’s the musical equivalent of all that stuff. It’s completely safe and it’s made for people that don’t rock. It’s made for people that are like, “Ooh. We’re going to get a sitter and go into town.” It’s passionless music for people who don’t have a passion for music. It’s just like, “Yeah, we’re going to rock out, and I’m going to have a third beer.”  

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